Shunning Israeli children: BDS sinks to a new low

Children are the latest victims of the increasingly nasty Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which campaigns to end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory by boycotting its goods and institutions. In a bizarre email response to a 13-year-old Israeli girl, former University of Cambridge archaeology academic Marsha Levine said she would not answer the girl’s questions about horses until ‘there is peace and justice for Palestinians’.

Shachar Rabinovitch, in her email to Levine, said she was an Israeli schoolgirl working on a project about horses, and asked Levine, an expert on horses, a series of questions about ancient breeds. Levine, who is a member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, told the girl that, despite her young age, she should be aware of ‘Israeli history and how it has impacted on the lives of Palestinian people’.

Discriminating against a child for the actions of a government she has never voted for – and which she can’t be expected to have a strong opinion about – is idiocy bordering on bigotry. What’s more, by assuming Rabinovitch is anti-Palestine, purely on the basis of her nationality, Levine denied Rabinovitch’s status as an individual.

Talking to the Telegraph, Levine said: ‘The fact is I don’t want to help Israelis, and if you don’t start with children where do you start?’ The answer to this question is obvious: you start with those responsible, with those supporting whatever it is you disagree with. What responsibility can this teenage girl possibly bear for the actions of her elders?

Intolerant individuals like Levine have little appreciation of such nuance. Which is surprising considering that she, and many other BDS supporters, are academics. As someone nominally committed to the free exchange of ideas and the pursuit of knowledge, you’d think Levine would realise that refusing to engage with your opponents helps no one – it only fuels greater animosity on both sides and stops you from reaching a constructive solution. 

This story has shown that the BDS movement has sunk to a new low. But it also highlights its fundamental hypocrisy. Given that Israel is one of the biggest recipients of US foreign aid, why doesn’t Levine refuse to answer questions from American teenagers? Shouldn’t they, too, be held responsible for their government’s support of Israel’s ‘apartheid’? Actually, given Levine is American, shouldn’t she boycott herself?

Joe Arthur is a spiked intern.

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